The 10 Best Traps in Movie History

by Bill Gibron

5 March 2014

Raiders of the Lost Ark 

5 - 1

#5 - The Cabin (The Cabin in the Woods)

Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon are just insane. Not only did they deconstruct the entirety of the horror genre with their amazing movie, they made one of the main tropes—the title element—the means to justify the ends. Within said sagging wooden structure are a series of talismans each one linked to a nightmare creature ready to kill five friends so that giant angry gods don’t return to the Earth’s surface to lay waste to humanity. Nutso, right? Well, in their hands, what shouldn’t work becomes wonderful, a truism take to illogical limits by our own familiarity with the artform.

#4 - The Jaw Helmet (Saw)

Saw again, and oddly enough, this trap involves the same individual later thrown into that aforementioned pit of medical waste. With its head splitting design and meatball surgery means of escape, the suspense surrounding this deadly machine, only the second or third such set-up we see in the entire Saw franchise, set the benchmark which all other traps had to live up to for the next few films. Most wouldn’t make the cut. Oddly enough, the device makes a cameo later on in the series, suggesting its endemic qualities to the filmmakers as well.

#3 - The Cave of One Eyed Willy (The Goonies)

Like the mini-Indiana Jones that they are, the members of the outcast title troops decide that deciphering an ancient pirate’s treasure map is the only way to save their town. Granted, said puzzle is filled with well-anchored rocks, a pipe organ made out of human bones, and a ship which carries its own “booty trapped” designs. Naturally, no one gets seriously injured within the Rube Goldberg make-up of this underground adventure, but an entire generation of movie fans found their calling in the caves of Northern California and a certain “Truffle Shuffle”.

#2 - The House (Home Alone)

When he wished his family away, the young man at the center of this movie never thought he’d get such a heady holiday present. Then he discovers his house is being targeted by a couple of less than competent burglars. A series of self-made traps and trip-ups later, and he’s ready to give these “thirsty for more” dolts the deceptive bends. Granted, almost all of what the little boy does—and in response, what happens to these haggard adults—comes directly from slapstick, but it’s still a whole lot of homemade defense fun.

#1 - The Cave of the Idol (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

This was the opening which started the myth, the iconic moment when our post-modern serial hero stepped into the lion’s den and came out with a few acknowledged scratches. From guessing the weight of the idol to misjudging its heft and the need to face blow darts, spike walls, and one massive rolling boulder, our future icon, Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. set the standards by which most movie contraptions are culled. While the other films in the franchise would feature similar set-ups, including a classic ending for Last Crusade, this is the one everyone remembers, and the one that matters, movie-wise.

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